Boggy conditions at Belmont Park were of no concern to John Murrell's Zhukova, who trounced her male rivals by six lengths May 13 in the $400,000 Man o' War Stakes (G1T).
Having already taken down some of the best turf performers in Europe, Dermot Weld-trained Zhukova (IRE) is now aiming at making her first stateside impression a winning one.
The turf marathon niche has proven one that suits Jed Cohen's Itsinthepost as the bay gelding scored his second straight graded triumph when he captured the $250,000 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes (G2T) by 1 1/4 lengths over Charming Kitten.
Irap, who broke his maiden with a three-quarter-length win in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) April 8, put in his first move since that shocker, working a mile in 1:44 at Keeneland Friday morning.
Long-winded turf winners will run for $250,000 in the Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes (G2T) with a deep field headed by Itsinthepost and Danish Dynaformer.
Back at his home track, Churchill Downs, McCraken showed composure before and during his half-mile drill April 18 in :47 4/5.
ABR Films spent an action-packed day of racing on Blue Grass Stakes day at Keeneland with trainer Kenny McPeek and went behind the scenes to learn about his training strategies and witness the excitement of horse racing at its highest level.
The relative quiet surroundings of Keeneland's Barn 43 provided the perfect setting for the connections of Irap the morning of April 9 as they went about digesting what the son of Tiznow pulled off the evening before.
Trainer Ian Wilkes had his humor intact and his perspective on point Sunday morning less than 24 hours after McCraken finished third in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) April 8, the colt's first loss in five career starts.
Consider this your weekly guide to the best stakes in North America. This week we have massive stakes cards at Aqueduct Racetrack, Keeneland, and Santa Anita Park built around three top Triple Crown preps.
- By Dave Litfin
- Thoroughbred Racing, Handicapping, Southeast Region, Southwest Region, West Region, Kentucky
Horse players will need three sets of eyes to keep track of this week's action, as Aqueduct Racetrack, Keeneland, and Santa Anita Park all run 170-point qualifiers to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
As his connections watched their $1.2 million purchase finish last in the field of 10 in his Saratoga Race Course debut, they were hit with the sinking feeling that the potential they thought they saw the summer before had led them awry.
Unbeaten McCraken soared through his final move in preparation for the April 8 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), covering a half-mile in :49 2/5 at Keeneland.
The high energy level Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Tapwrit has flaunted in recent weeks was on display March 31, when he tuned up for the April 8 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) with a half-mile move at Palm Beach Downs.
Following a strong five-furlong work March 28 at Winding Oaks Farm near Ocala, Fla., the connections of Classic Empire set the Arksansas Derby (G1) as the next target for last year's champion juvenile male.
Peacock Racing Stables' multiple graded stakes winner Gunnevera put in his final breeze March 25 for the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) April 1 at Gulfstream Park, leading a coast-to-coast slate of sophomore works.
John Oxley's reigning juvenile champion Classic Empire did not break off in a scheduled workout March 19 at Palm Meadows Training Center, according to trainer Mark Casse.
Trainer Ian Wilkes breathed a sigh of relief March 11 when he sent unbeaten McCraken out for an easy half-mile move at Palm Meadows Training Center, the first work for the colt since a mild ankle strain was discovered in his left front Feb. 28.
Janis Whitham's unbeaten homebred McCraken has resumed galloping at Palm Meadows Training Center the past few days and remains on track to start in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland April 8.
John Oxley's reigning juvenile male champion Classic Empire is still targeting the April 8 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland trainer Mark Casse confirmed, despite having a workout aborted March 3.
Add the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) April 1 at Gulfstream Park to the list of Triple Crown preps being considered for M M G Stables' impressive 3-year-old El Areeb, a winner of his last four races including back-to-back graded stakes.
Keeneland announced Jan. 19 a $4.325 million stakes schedule for its 2017 Spring Meet that offers 16 stakes, featuring the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) and $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1).
The first foal by multiple grade 1 winner Palace Malice was born at Three Chimneys in the early morning of Jan. 12.
- By Steve Haskin
There have been many, myself included, who were shocked by the Graded Stakes committee's decision to downgrade two of the most historic Kentucky Derby preps, the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass Stakes, from grade I to grade II.
A start in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland is the first choice for Classic Empire's final Derby prep, but the race's downgraded status has prompted his connections to put other options back into the discussion.
|Horse||Trainer||Breeder / Owner|
|Balance the Books||Chad C. Brown||
|Channel Isle||D. Wayne Lukas||
|Charming Kitten||Michael J. Maker||
|Divine Ambition||Darrin Miller||
|Fear the Kitten||Michael J. Maker||
|Footbridge||Eoin G. Harty||
|Java's War||Kenneth G. McPeek||
|My Name Is Michael||Rachel Halden||
|Palace Malice||Todd A. Pletcher||
|Rydilluc||Gary C. Contessa||
|Uncaptured||Mark E. Casse||
|West Hills Giant||David Jacobson||
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